A Simple Test

You’re at McDonalds…which product contains the most ingredients, the ultra-manipulated McNuggets or the simple grilled chicken breast filet?  Got your answer?  Feeling confident?  Ready to place a friendly wager?

Let’s start with the much-maligned McNugget.  By my count the “chicken” part of it comes in with 14 separate ingredients.  The breading adds 14 additional items (I’m not counting repeats like salt), and the vegetable oil used to fry them lists 7 more, bringing the grand total up to 35.  Feeling more  confident now? 

If you have the chance, I would highly recommend reading The End of Overeating by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler MD.  A large portion of the book is devoted to the ways the food industry manipulates what we eat to make it hyper-palatable.  This is done by layering fats, salts, and sugars, and also by making foods easy to chew and swallow.  The McNugget (and virtually all fast foods)certainly fits all of those parameters.

The food industry is driven by sales, and the name of the game is to create products that stimulate our taste buds and entice us to purchase them again and again.  And they’ve become very very good at what do.   So don’t think that they’re going to serve you a plain old piece of grilled chicken.  They’ve got plenty of tricks to modify and enhance that bird to make it too good to resist, so let’s count them.

Before we look at the chicken, let’s examine the way they choose to cook it.  They use a liquid margarine that is made up of 12 ingredients.  Listed among those are partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils.  That makes sense…everyone knows that nothing compliments a healthy chicken breast like a dollop of trans fat.

Now onto that beautiful juicy chicken breast.  It’s a little different than the stuff you fix at home.  It’s injected with salt, water, and spices to make it tender and flavorful.  They add chicken fat, sugar, coloring and a few other odds and ends.  All told, that simple piece of chicken rolls off the assembly line with 22 additional ingredients added to it.  So thats 23 for the “meat” and 12 in the margarine for a grand total of 35…WHY IT’S A TIE!

Of course if you choose to use one of the dipping sauces on your nuggets that changes everything.  Many of them have high-fructose corn syrup for a base, and have a laundry list of unrecognizable ingredients.  Their barbeque sauce lists 23, with the aforementioned HFCS at the top of the list, along with salt and soy sauce (more salt). 

Fat, layered with salt, layered with sugar, layered with salt,  a combination we have a very hard time resisting.   We continue to buy it so the food industry makes sure to keep it right in front of our faces.  But it’s too much fat, too much sugar, and too much salt that is leading to obesity and a host of other health problems.   We need to stay informed and make better choices.  Right now good nutrition is a subject that most of us are failing.


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